As I have written here in the past about my desire for Gibraltar and La Línea to co-operate it would be rather churlish of me to criticise the chief minister when he proposes just that. However there is co-operation and co-operation and I wonder if he hasn’t crossed a dangerous line.
Let us go back to September 7 when the chief minister visited the mayor of La Línea, Gemma Araujo. He proposed that a logistical centre be created in the border town on land adjacent to the airport terminal which between them would handle freight traffic.
Not surprisingly La Plataforma de la Zona Franca has expressed its satisfaction over Gibraltar’s plans. In a press statement the action group stated: “We understand that the town has as main objective to create employment, so that proposals like this not only would have an impact on La Línea, but in the Campo de Gibraltar”
There are over 300 members of the Zona Franca action group and they have offered their support and collaboration with La Línea town hall to bring this project to fruition. Their statement went on to offer: “to work with the town hall in the creation of a forum of dialogue with all the political groups and where we can search for qualified staff to carry out this project” which it says it has been demanding since the action group was first formed.
Naturally this group wants to see a Zona Franca created in which the logistics centre would be located and it expects Gibraltar to use its benefits. It surmises that the chief minister has made the offer because whilst the new airport terminal occupies a lot of land the Rock lacks the additional space for a logistics centre.
So we get the gist of how this project is viewed from the Spanish side. However if such a project were to proceed there are a number of important questions that need to be asked.
If the action group envisages numerous jobs being created and is talking of searching for the qualified staff it follows it expects them to be found in La Línea and the Campo de Gibraltar. If that is the case will Gibraltarians be excluded from working in the logistics centre? Surely if Gibraltar’s airport is to create jobs then the first people to be offered them should be Gibraltarians.
Again if the logistics centre is located in La Línea and Gibraltarians do work there they will in effect be employed in Spain. Hence their social security and tax will be paid to Madrid and they will be governed by Spanish employment law and not Gibraltarian. What effects will that have on their pension rights and other benefits on the Rock?
There is another area of concern and that involves sovereignty. It was always proposed that there would be a Spanish part of the terminal in La Línea which would house customs and immigration officials. Hence travellers going from the airport directly in to Spain could use this facility rather than run the gauntlet of crossing through the current border post.
However a logistics centre in Spain is something rather different. To operate effectively presumably there has to be open access between the centre, the airport proper and aircraft carrying freight. When freight goes from an aircraft to the centre or visa versa it will cross a sovereign border. In theory the staff transporting the goods or others simply going to and fro therefore should pass through immigration and customs each time because otherwise they are treating the airport and the logistics area as one sovereign area which it is not. So whose sovereignty will prevail, Gibraltar’s or Spain’s or is the airport to be the first location where joint sovereignty becomes a reality.